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No arrests, no answers in violent Main Street shootings

Neighbourhood and political concerns continue two weeks after a brazen daytime shooting as police promise a summer of vigilance amid rising crime.

Police are promising a summer of vigilance amid rising neighbourhood crime

A bullet went through clean through Marz Paint's window at Main Street E. and East Ave after a mid-day shooting on May 17. (David Ritchie)

Two weeks after a brazen, mid-day shooting just outside her central Hamilton paint shop, Belinda Richard is still shaken.

Understandably so, considering a bullet flew through her business' window when two men fired at each other just outside Marz Paint on May 17.

Since then, people have offered to sell her a bulletproof vest while she's at work on Main Street East. But the shooting is just the latest and most dramatic neighbourhood incident she's aware of. Rising crime trends in the area have meant police have asked to see her security camera footage 19 times in three years to help with various criminal investigations.

"I'm pretty wary," she said. "It's a really rough area."

Even with police promises for increased visibility in Ward 3 and a community rally called after the mid-day shooting incident shook the city, there are few public answers coming from police.

They really need to crack down on the drugs here.- Belinda Richard, owner of Marz Paint

Investigators are still working to track down the people involved, but as of Friday, they haven't identified any suspects, haven't ruled out gang activity and aren't sure where these men are from.

However, the police service did pledge to assign ACTION officers to the neighbourhood this summer to increase police visibility because they have seen violent crime in the area surge in the last year.

The officers who keep track of those statistics weren't available Friday to give firm numbers how much crime has risen, but Richard says she has definitely seen a jump in the last year or so.

'How much?'

She often sees drug deals happen just outside her window, as people pass off small packages disguised as handshakes.

"I've even had cars pull up to me and yell, 'How much?'" she said. Street level sex workers sometimes scream at her to get off their corner.

"They really need to crack down on the drugs here," Richard said.

Though police say more officers are being assigned to the area this summer, Const. Steve Welton told CBC News that he can't say how many in the interest of public safety and to "ensure the safety of the investigation."

"But I can say that people can expect to see uniform police officers in vehicles, bikes and often on foot," Welton said. "All the officers want the community to know they are approachable."

"The criminals involved in this shooting incident need to know that they aren't welcome in our Hamilton … They can expect people to stand up and the Hamilton Police Service will continue to investigate to arrest those involved violent crimes such as this." 

Police have repeatedly asked the public for their help, and have released several photos and videos in an attempt to identify the suspects.

Gun ban, buybacks proposed

Welton says that the Gangs and Weapons Enforcement Unit is working with the Criminal Investigations Branch on both the recent shootings and trends in violent crimes.

At Thursday's rally, Sgt. Michael Donaldson from the ACTION team told the crowd of about 100 people that they're not used to seeing gun violence to this degree.

"I know it's hard to have faith sometimes when you see things like this happening, but [investigators] are working daily to get to the bottom of this, to develop the information that they need to make arrests and convictions," Donaldson said.

In response to the incidents, Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green has proposed a gun buyback program, and Mayor Fred Eisenberger has asked city staff to research whether the city could ban guns entirely.

The federal government regulates gun ownership, and handguns like the ones used in that Sunday shootout are already restricted for target practice at shooting ranges, or for some high-risk jobs.

Amnesty programs aim to gather up unwanted guns and keep them from being stolen and getting into the wrong hands.

adam.carter@cbc.ca | @AdamCarterCBC

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